Most businesses that are serving a local area are focused on showing up in the Google local 3-pack search results for relevant search terms. Four to five years ago, focusing on just this was a pretty viable strategy. However, as they always do, things have changed.
For starters, there used to 7 results listed in the local results. In August of 2015, Google changed it to the 3-pack we have now. Obviously, this makes it much more competitive to be seen.
They also have been turning up the dial on proximity to search results.
If you perform the search “dentists” from your computer, you are likely going to see the offices that are closest to you show up, sometimes even in order of their proximity to you.
You can test this with many different searches. They won’t always be in order from closest to farthest, but if you study the local search results, you will notice that the ones in closer proximity to your location often seem to have a leg up on other competitors that are farther away.
Local businesses are faced with less potential to show up at the top of search results in the 3-pack versus the old 7-pack and the emphasis on proximity has made the old adage, “Location, location, location…” even more important.
With the old 7-pack ranking for searches performed near your business as well as those in close by towns was not that difficult. Besides the fact that you had 7 places to shoot for, not as many businesses were as savvy about local search results. The competition was much easier to beat if you knew what you were doing.
Today it is much more difficult to show up in search results for people searching from 5 or even 10 miles away unless you have a unique business with very few competitors between you and them. Where it gets really tough is when a business wants to pull customers from further away, such as neighboring counties.
For example, maybe a specialist in the medical field like a cosmetic surgeon, or perhaps a company that specializes in hazardous waste disposal.
This is where local landing pages can help a business compete in local search results.
To be clear, this is not necessarily going to help a business rank in the local 3-pack. This is an alternative strategy to try to capture some of the local search market.
This will also work very well for “local” searches that are not triggering the local 3-pack in the SERPs at all.
The concept of a local landing page (LLP) is not a new idea. But I want to provide some ideas on how to go about doing it and show you a real example of how it works.
To show this in action, I created a local landing page right here on this site.
This one is designed to target local searches, such as:
Let’s look at the results first, then we will talk about how I created the page and what I did to rank it.
Here is a search for “seo york pa”. The results are basically identical for the other search terms above and similar related results.
In this case, you can see that the business shows up in the local results, the home page shows up in the organic results, and the LLP shows up right after the home page.
Keep in mind that this search is performed inside, York. If you perform the same search from other locations, the local 3-pack results may vary, and you will likely see just the LLP in the organic search results.
That’s okay though because if I was designing a LLP for York, I would most likely be targeting people who are searching from that location, right? Somebody sitting in Chicago is not going to perform this search.
So let’s talk about how I like to create pages like this.
There are two schools of thought on local landing pages in the SEO community. Either one can be effective.
Method 1: The first strategy is to simply create a page that mentions the town or city you want to rank in several times throughout, but in nonspecific generic ways. Then this page can be duplicated over and over with the name of the town or city just swapped out for each new page.
Method 2: This method takes a little more work, and is the method I used in the example above. You write a page that is very specific to the local market. You name landmarks, events, sports teams, etc. that are relevant to the local community. If you read through the content on the LLP I used above, you will see what I mean.
If you are not familiar with the area, you can easily find some basic information on Wikipedia or by doing a simple search. You don’t have to do a complete historical essay on the town.
Does one method rank better than the other? No. Not that I have been able to prove anyhow.
So why go through the extra work of Method 2?
That’s pretty easy to answer. The first method works. I’ve done it. I have seen it all over the SERPs from other companies. I have no doubt that not only does it work, but it works well.
There are two reasons I prefer the second method. As I mentioned, the first method works extremely well, but it is also the kind of thing that Google could easily target one day if they decided to. It would not take a very complex algorithm to identify such pages and remove them from the rankings.
The second reason I like Method 2 better is that it is likely to convert better with prospects that land on your page. It builds trust. It reads like it was written by someone that knows the market (or at least has done a little bit of research about the market).
The other thing you can do with both of these is break them out even further for different keywords. For example, I could do the same thing for PPC services or I could keep this one targeting “SEO company” related keywords and build another one for “SEO services” or “search engine optimization service” related keywords.
You don’t have to limit it to just one page per town if you have multiple lines of business you want to target.
On the other hand, I could modify that page and add PPC services related content to the page and use it just as easily.
You go about ranking one of these pages the same way you would any other page: good onpage SEO and relevant links. Simple as that.
In smaller markets, you likely will be able to rank the page with just internal links, however, I like to orphan these pages to a large degree. I won’t add them in the navigation or with a ton of footer links. You don’t want a drop down menu that includes a list like this:
I also don’t want these links crowding my footer up looking spammy.
There are two ways to handle this that I have used. You can use one or both of these methods, and again in smaller markets you will probably move to page one if your site has a moderate amount of authority. Otherwise, you might have to go looking for a few external links to give it an extra push.
First thing you can do if you are creating multiple pages like this is create a Locations page. You can add this link to the navigation menu. Then you create a page stating that this is a list of the areas you serve. I would not go keyword rich with the anchor text for a page like this. Using this list above, instead of listing them like that, I would simply list:
You would use those as the anchors leading to each of the location pages.
Now you have a link on every page leading to this location page, and then it links to the locations. Should be a pretty strong link.
The second thing you can do is only list these pages in the sitemap of the site. Then add a link to your sitemap in the footer. Again, now you have a link to the sitemap on every page (although a much weaker link), and then the sitemap leads to these location pages. Often times, this is enough.
In the example I did on my site for this article, I did a hybrid of this second option. Only difference is I skipped the sitemap and linked directly to the page. I wouldn’t normally do this, but I was hoping to speed up the results a little bit for the purpose of this article.
There you go. A simple guide to using landing pages for local SEO.
Just like anything else in SEO it seems, there are a lot of myths around citations for local SEO. If you are trying to rank a website locally, make sure you are not falling into any of these traps.
The first myth especially can be a real headache for you if you buy into it.
Read on to learn more.
Myth #1: Your citations must all be uniform and identical.
Truth: This is the biggest myth out there about citations. At one time, there may have been some truth to it, but Google has evolved since then.
It unfortunately is often used as a scare tactic by SEOs and salespeople with services like Yext to make a sale. They tell business owners that if your citations show up with variations in them that this can hurt or even completely impede your chances of ranking locally.
Examples of variations would be some citations using Avenue in the address versus others using Ave. or Av.
You will also hear that variations in the business name in the citations have a negative impact such as Bob’s Auto Repair vs. Bob’s Auto Repair Shop or Jane Smith Legal Practice vs Jane Smith Legal Firm.
Some will even go as far to say that your site will be penalized for discrepancies such as these.
If Google could not understand that Avenue and Ave. are the same thing, there would be so many duplicate listings out there, the local map would look like a total mess in Google.
The same goes with the business names. Google fully understands that Bob’s Auto Repair and Bob’s Auto Repair Shop are the same business, especially when their address and phone number matchup.
A citation is based on three data points: name, address, and phone number, often times referred to as a NAP. If two of these data points are a match, and the third one is pretty close or a partial match, Google will associate those citations with the correct Google My Business listing.
You can see this in action live when an accounting firm or legal firm adds a partner. The name might change from Smith & Jones Accounting to Smith, Jones, & Johnson Accounting. We don’t see a drop in local rankings because all of their citations no longer match.
In many cases, it is not even possible to have your citations all match. Some directories will not allow the use of a suite number or automatically abbreviate things like street and road. Others format phone numbers differently.
Even if you wanted to, it is impossible to make all of your citations uniform across the internet.
Myth #2: If your citations do not include your suite number, that is a big problem.
Truth: I see this one a lot. Not just that your suite number needs to be included in every citation, but also that it must be formatted the same across all of your citations.
Google does not even use suite numbers for many Google business listings. Even if you enter your suite number in your Google My Business listing, it does not get carried over to the Suite # field in Google MapMaker. It just gets dropped.
Google pays more attention to the pin marker of the business than it does to the actual words in an address when determining the location of a business, largely because there can be multiple ways to enter a street address.
It also doesn’t matter if your citations contain variations in the suite such as:
What Google cares about when it comes to your citations and local listing is that you are at 123 Avenue.
Myth #3: You must have suite or office numbers in your citations if more than one business shares the same building.
Truth: Some believe that by having multiple businesses sharing the same building it will be more difficult for each of them to rank. To combat this, they say you must include a suite or office number and make sure it is in all of your citations.
This is just not true at all. There are thousands of examples out there of businesses sharing buildings without listing suite or office numbers and ranking just fine.
Again, Google cares about the physical address of your location. Not what office you are in at that location.
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is testing a website builder in India to help small businesses that are just starting to get online. It appears they are also testing the product in Australia.
Mike Blumenthal reported that he was given access to the builder through a business invited into the beta.
At this point, it is a very simple one-page website builder that is accessed through the website tab on a Google My Business listing.
Right now the it is very limited in options, but it is easy to see that in the future Google might expand this. Keeping people on Google.com gives them more opportunities to understand a business and sell ads.
We may see this expand to countries with a more developed online presence, so it is worth keeping an eye on. For now, it makes sense for Google to focus on driving this product in countries where many businesses are not currently online. A free, mobile-friendly, website will be an easy sell in such places.